Tuesday, January 12, 2016

willpower is like a muscle

You can build up its strength, but at some point it will deplete.
It’s not a finite resource. It needs recovery time.

What they found is that after making a lot of decisions
our self-control lowers. We’re tired.
It’s called decision fatigue.

Plus, once we’ve exercised self-control,
our capacity for making decisions lowers.

When you notice you’re avoiding a decision,
taking the easy way out or going for the default option,
stop and think about what happened earlier that day.

Chances are you exercised a lot of self-control somewhere.

It’s no wonder that researchers at Duke University estimate that
40% of our daily actions are habits, not conscious choice.
That’s around 6 of our waking hours on autopilot!

It's likely the best we can do.
It makes sense to want to change your habits.
So I’m wondering… how are your New Year’s resolutions going?

Apparently only 8% of people who make them achieve them.

So don’t be too hard on yourself.
At least we know, thanks to Roy and his colleagues,
that willpower is a finite resource.

But that’s not a reason to give up.

Here are five 'easy' things you can do.

1. Eat a jellybean
The part of the brain in charge of our willpower runs on glucose.
When the glucose depletes, so does our willpower.

A jellybean might help.
If you only need a small and brief pick-me-up, this might hit the spot.

It doesn’t replace a proper meal, exercise, socialising and sleep
(your Mum was right).

2. Pick one thing
Set yourself up for success.
Pick one achievable thing to improve at a time.
Visualise what that looks like and go for it.

3. Go for small wins
To build strength, Roy and his colleagues recommend
doing something small enough that you can do regularly.
And make sure it’s meaningful enough to make a difference
to keep you motivated.

It’s about getting better. Small wins.
There’s no such thing as an overnight success.

So that one thing you picked? Don't make it too big.

4. Remove temptation
That chocolate stash that’s out of sight and out of reach?
That’s good.
Even better would be having it out of the house.
Remove temptation. It helps.

It's because we prefer instant rewards to long term payoffs.
It's how we're wired.

5. Track your progress
We have a negativity bias.
Tending to focus on our slip ups more than our successes.
So track your progress.
Go for the Seinfeld streak2.

Remember too that your perception is key.

If you don't like how things are,
you either change your perception
or make a change.

If you made a resolution, then it's clear you want to make a change.
The next step is to do whatever it takes.
Do you know what that is for you?
It's not always clear.

I’ve opened up spots in my calendar to talk with people who
are ready for a different kind of year at work.